UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
See Tho, Philip Peng Kuan
National Institute of Education
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 

An Academic Exercise submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for Bachelor of Arts (Hons)


This Academic Exercise is a small contribution to the existing historiography on decolonisation in Malaya and Singapore. Unlike most other works, this AE attempts to examine the complex issue from the education perspective. It will show how the British employed education as a tool for political ends, in this case, for postwar Malayan nation-building. Ironically, just as Britain planned to decolonise gradually to maintain global influence, the war had drastically altered colonial relationships so that Britain now had to contend with rising tide of Asian nationalism. The point of contention here is the establishment of Nanyang University. The proposal of a Chinese university by the Singapore Chinese community was, in effect, a reaction against colonial education policy that they deemed detrimental to Chinese culture. In other words, the British had initially neglected the need to align its goal with managing local forces in their decolonisation considerations. Britain's later compromise confirmed this need as it came to terms with postwar reality. Hence, this AE is structured around answering two questions: why did Britain not stamp out the Nanyang University proposal immediately and instead allow it to grow? Also, why did the British later approve and "welcome" the Chinese University? Besides the Malayan context, international events also played a part in persuading Britain to adopt a soft approach on Nanyang University. This turned out to be wise for long-term strategic considerations and successful management of local forces.

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